Strategy Is Not About Deciding What To Do

Over the last few years, one has been advising a friend-entrepreneur. She is an information security expert, from the best of engineering schools and coupled with a management degree from a top institution. Her career experience has been in her chosen field and she has built a reputation of being the best in the country. Government policy makers regularly use her brains. She has a partner who has deep experience in project execution in India and abroad. Easily, a combination that sets them up as future leaders in the space.

So, what would a duo like this need advice about.

Choice.

When you are good at something, you feel you can do everything. Take advantage of every opportunity. Especially if you are a start-up, every thousand bucks of revenue is important. Our initial conversations were about what they felt they could do. The list they came back with, not surprisingly, ran into pages.

Strategy is really about deciding what NOT to do.

When you have an abundance of resources, talent or money or both, it’s normal to keep one’s options open. When I was in advertising, the most common refrain from clients when pressed to describe what differentiated their business would be “We are an one-stop shop for all your needs”.

It’s not easy. We have been making this ‘cover the bases’ decisions from childhood. How many of us have taken both engineering and medical entrance exams at the Standard XII level. And applied to the commerce courses, too. Think about it.  What talents are common to engineering and medicine. How many engineers are floating around who may have been exceptional doctors. What’s the opportunity cost of that.

It’s the same cost you may end up paying, as a start-up or as a manager. if you don’t think hard about the choices right up front. To paraphrase one of my all time favourite lines from a song:

“And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you where to run, you missed the starting gun”

So, where has my friend got to. From the broad seven industry spaces they could legitimately play in, they chose three. In two years, this focus has given them great momentum in the market. They have picked up marque clients and they just closed their first round of funding from friends.

They figured out early where to run.


Suprio is a partner at Accelero. We deliver growth ideas, tested for market fit, at speed.

About Accelero